By Michael E. Miller
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In a recent interview, Uriarte said she only vaguely remembered the case and referred questions to Tammy Forrest, chief of the sexual battery/child abuse unit in the State Attorney's Office. Forrest had been unaware of the case, but at New Times's request she reviewed the police reports pertaining to Lisa Hamilton's allegations. After doing so Forrest supported Uriarte's decision. In a situation like this, she explained, a jury's finding boils down to whom they choose to believe. “Because the assaults occurred so long ago, there is no physical evidence,” she noted. “It's his word against her word.” Further, she said, defense attorneys surely would have pointed out that police reports reveal Lisa's plan to file a civil lawsuit asking for monetary damages. “Juries get suspicious of that sort of thing,” Forrest observed.
On July 17, 1999, one day after meeting with Uriarte, Signori closed his investigation. His final report concluded with this: “Probable cause exists to arrest [McIntire] for sexual battery. Due to the fact that the State Attorney's Office will not file charges ... it is requested that this case be exceptionally cleared.” (A case is “exceptionally cleared” when probable cause exists to arrest a suspect but circumstances prevent prosecution.) Later that day a form letter went out to Lisa from the Miami-Dade Police Department advising her of that decision.
The smartest man in Miami, it seemed, was clear of the law and free to reappear.
Just two days later, McIntire's body was found in his van, submerged in a canal next to a zucchini field in Southwest Miami-Dade. He had been missing one day short of three months.
The rural location was an ideal place to drop off the face of the Earth. The area is sparsely populated. The canal is deep enough to fully conceal a vehicle resting on the bottom. And from the spot where McIntire slipped his car down an embankment and into the slow-moving water, eight-foot-tall grass obscures the view from any vehicles randomly passing in the distance. He was found by a diver employed by a towing company searching the canal for automobiles to salvage. (Canals and flooded rock quarries in remote parts of the county often are used to dispose of stolen or unwanted vehicles.)
The van was upside down. McIntire was in the driver's seat, his seat belt attached. Later divers also found a large steel chain securing his body to the seat. A similar chain was wrapped around his foot and the accelerator. Both were fastened with key-operated padlocks, as if to prevent escape should he lose the nerve to die as water gushed through the open windows. His clothes, while badly deteriorated, appeared to match those he was wearing the day he disappeared. Dental records were used to establish positive identification. The medical examiner determined he died of drowning.
Even with considerable media coverage of McIntire's disappearance and ultimately his death, Lisa's sexual-battery allegations were never reported publicly, though police hinted at them to a Miami Herald reporter. In explaining the suicide ruling, Miami-Dade Police Department spokesman Rudy Espinosa alluded to key information police were withholding. “There are certain things we don't want the family to read about in the paper,” the Herald quoted him as saying. As a result McIntire's friends freely speculated on his death: a car jacking staged as a suicide; despondence over his weight and health. UM's Ambler Moss theorized that he may have been depressed by the recent death of a close friend, Cuban scholar Enrique Baloyra.
Among those who eventually learned of the allegations, virtually all hoped never to see them in print. Jon Carroll, the San Francisco Chronicle columnist, responded via e-mail to a request for comment, passionately arguing that the story was not newsworthy. “You are, of course, free to write what you want,” he said. “I can assure you that, down the line, you will feel small and sleazy for having done so.” Henry Hamman, a Miami man who described himself as McIntire's closest friend, responded with equal vituperation: “Unless you can come up with some damn good reason to write this story, you'd better stay away from it or you'll regret it the rest of your life.” McIntire's widow declined to comment but did voice her objection to the story's publication, questioning the public benefit.
Needless to say Lisa Hamilton believes otherwise. She bristles at the suggestion her allegations should be concealed and that McIntire's reputation should remain unsullied. She calls this article “the first solid beginning of the annihilation that this twisted fucker's character has needed for many decades.” Her pain, she says, is only now beginning to subside: “He transformed my life forever. There's no easy way for me to get over what he did. I think people finally ought to know what this man was really like, what he was capable of doing, and did, to a child as young and helpless as I was.”
Staff writer Victor Cruz contributed to this report.